Hello everyone. I’m Bradly (“Brad”) McGarr, and I have recently added my name to the ballot for Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee. I’ll be frank, this was not something I had planned to do. However, as I started watching ‘slates’ form online, I felt a slight uneasiness with these power blocs forming. Democracy is best served when we have a wide range of ideas, opinions, views, histories, and demographics at the table.
I am of the opinion that democracy is harmed by power blocs regardless of how altruistic their slated goals may be. It is my personal view that slates, voting blocs, internal divisions and factions only counter the potential of democratic socialism. The DSA was formed from a splintered faction of the SPA when there became significant disagreements over the correct path forward. This is where factionalizing leads: splintering of unity and power into smaller and smaller constituencies of like mindedness.
Democracy is uncomfortable, it requires us to trust one another, open ourselves up, to listen and to speak up with respect, to debate issues and consider alternate points of view. It sometimes requires us to come to a compromise. Elected bodies celebrate democracy, and all it’s promise, when those elected to serve are not already forming power structures and shoring up votes toward a specific agenda, but coming to the table with their own ideas and working together to achieve mutual goals.
We do not practice the hard and uncomfortable democracy if we continue to heavily represent the same population centers on the east coast, and draw power from the largest chapters. Much of the criticism of the Democratic Party is on backroom deals, power brokering, and pushing out views that do not jive with Corporate-Centrist ideology. It is a mistake for the DSA to engage in such internal politics, and instead work toward our higher goals and desired political practice.
This is why I have chosen to become a nominee for the NPC: to offer an independent voice that is not expressly tied to any platform or plan, and one that represents members of the DSA that are in places that have not been represented in the past: the central plains as well as the west coast.
As the DSA continues to grow and blossom, and experience growing pains in the process, it is important those within the organization be committed rather than to specific plans but core values. My core values are:
- Transparency: The essential part of what must separate the DSA from any other political organization is transparency. Members should be able to, at any time, at any moment, get insight into discussions and actions occurring from the local level to the national level. This does not mean that the exact details of every single discussion be available, but it does mean that the membership should be able to find out who these individuals are, as well as what are their interests and associations, see dissenting opinions, see the results of votes and deliberations, and see the financial information. The more that happens in private, and the less meeting minutes and discussion information is available to the membership at-large the less we can differentiate ourselves from that which we are against. At present juncture, there is a deficiency in communicating to the membership at-large in a democratic fashion. As a member of the NPC, I would work to ensure that we remain as transparent as possible.
- Democracy: If we are to promote bottom-up democracy, then we need to ensure there is indeed bottom-up democracy and that it is as democratic as possible. In order to facilitate that, the NPC should be made up of persons representing a wide and diverse population and geography. It should also look frequently to the larger membership for guidance.
- Pragmatism: Separating actions that create a ‘good feeling’ versus actions and activities that deliver maximum reward toward our goals, and going with those that will benefit our goals over actions that are symbolic in nature. As a member of the NPC, I will argue for actions that create the maximum return of resources. To this end, I will not be supporting a mass march in Washington, D.C. for single-payer health care / Medicare-for-All. It is energy wasted appealing to a hostile congress and administration, it is an arduous task for people from far away from D.C. to participate, and it is unlikely to bring our organization any real benefits, besides the good feeling of having marched.
- Pause and Caution: Sometimes, as activists, we forget to tread carefully in our actions in a spirit of eagerness and a feeling of haste. We must remember to be deliberate in our actions, clear in our message, and above all: organized.
- Commitment to Individualism: We must strive not to be an organization seeking to indoctrinate people with a specific tendency, but to provide education as to what socialism is in big-picture terms and allow them to come to their own conclusion, without burdening them with large reading list.
- Inclusiveness: Ensure, above all, we ensure that people are encouraged and invited to participate as their time and energies allow, and ensure that the DSA does not become run by and for those who are able to dedicate substantial time. The organization must be open to the student and parent, the retiree and the worker, the urbam and rural.
As an NPC member, I will pursue a general platform. I’m not going to make the mistake of mapping out too many specifics as I want to debate with fellow members and come up with consensus, as is what democracy is all about.
- Virtualization: To reduce costs and burdens on members, as well as allow those who have limited means of transportation or are far from major transportation hubs, encourage the NPC as well as other bodies (State, Regional, and Chapter) to conduct the majority of their meetings virtually instead of in-person. Focusing on in-person meetings presents challenges and burdens of participation on parents, those living in suburban or rural areas outside of core major metropolitan areas, and needlessly wastes fuel resources when robust teleconferencing options are available and often free.
- Regionalization and State Coordination: As already allowed for in the Bylaws and Constitution, encourage the chapters in each state to come together to form state-level coordination councils while putting forth general guidelines that can apply universally, whether the state in question has two chapters or two-hundred. Additionally, authorize statewide coordination bodies (or in states with only one chapter, the chapter) to form a regional council also with general guidelines, including guidelines for cross-border work with our Comrades in immediately adjacent areas of Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In order for us to be successful, we must coordinate our ground activities on the local level, including adjacent border work. Chapters, States, and Regions must have flexibility to engage locally as local conditions warrant.
- Internationalism: If we are to build a democratic socialist future, we must be engaged globally, and we must start with our immediate counterparts in North America. Our ability to span continents at this time may be limited, but there is no reason why we cannot work with our counterparts in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. And there is no reason why we cannot entrust our local chapters to spearhead collaboration with similar bodies immediately cross-border. However, we must be deliberate and careful with our international cooperation.
- Domestic Partnerships: In order for the workers of this nation, regardless of industry or title, in order to gain equality and socio-economic justice, we must forge partnerships and seek to seize power through our active force. This includes partnering and working closely with labor unions, leftist or liberal-progressive religious organizations, big-tent anti-authoritarian leftist parties (e.g. SPUSA) and the Left-Progressive wings of the Democratic Party (Progressive Caucuses, Social Democrats, etc.). This does not mean blindly seek cooperation and partnerships: there must be acceptable levels of transparency, democracy, anti-authoritarianism, political freedom, and anti-racism/hate. For political parties and candidates, a significant voice at the table in decision making and advisory abilities, commitments on financial and political ethics, and public disclosure of our relationship. While a candidate may not necessarily be a self-proclaimed socialist, if they are not willing to work with us on our requests then we will not provide our growing organizational structure.
- Amplification of the Struggle for Disability & Mental Illness Rights: I leave this point for last because it is the one that hits home with me the most. I am joining the Disability Caucus because of my familial connections to disability and mental illness communities, and see first hand the level of outright disrespect and discrimination received. It is exceptionally frustrating to witness other causes for civil liberties routinely get support and political backing, however the disabled and those dealing with mental illnesses are marginalized even by well meaning progressives and leftists. As a member of the NPC, I will ensure that issues of disability and mental illness receive their just representation and access to our activism.
Commentary on Spring Platform & Akerman Blueprint
Overall, I find the Spring Platform and the Akerman Blueprint both compelling arguments and with much to merit. However, speaking specifically to the Spring Platform, the nature in which it has been developed is problematic: a small group of individuals based in the East Coast are developing and promoting a platform that will influence a very large organization is overall not something I would support (the manner in which this has been developed). Developing such a detailed platform needs to be a larger effort, and involve more people and more of the membership across a larger geographical area. However, despite this reservation and concern with the manner in which it has been developed, here are my views on the key points:
- March on Washington: A march on DC at this moment would largely stand in the category of “symbolic gestures” that will have little gravity. Street activism, marching and protesting, are among the provocative tools we have at our disposal, but they are hardly the most effective. In short, I would not support any proposal to coordinate a March on Washington, D.C.. Instead, I would propose a nation-wide effort of activity coordinated locally as local conditions dictate, including canvassing, campaigning, congressional office sit-ins, public information campaigns, and possibly encampments (similar to Maidan in Ukraine, Bonus Army in the US just after WWI… notice I am not invoking Occupy as Occupy was not well organized and lacked cohesion) when Democratic Party leaders fail to take a lead. Overall, When it comes to healthcare, we can do more by organizing locally as local situations dictate than attempting to converge several thousand people on D.C., a ridiculous amount of travel needed for Comrades in far-flung reaches of the country and not likely to produce any substantive results as even a weekend long march. Organizing as locally realities dictate allows those in left-leaning states to take more provocative approaches (marches, encampments) while those in more hostile states can engage as they see fit. The NPC should coordinate the larger fight, including forming partnerships, leading canvassing and campaigning, but spending efforts and energy on a single march on DC is unwise.
- Member Mobilizers: This is an issue that local chapters should be encouraged to take up on their own, however the guidance I would recommend the NPC and National provide is for chapters to organize themselves geographically, including encouraging people of sub-areas to meet more frequently and engage socially thus building camaraderie, and recommending Steering Committees add officers that represent these geographic areas to not only increase leadership but allow for greater voices among people that are outside of the urban core. Similar to party precincts or organizing units.
- Socialist Political Education: Since the Spring Platform group has not fleshed this idea out, I cannot speak in great detail about it, however I would recommend that such education not be specifically Marxist, and be done in such a way to specifically encourage the attendance of the often otherwise “Liberal-Progressive” individuals who are new or unfamiliar with Socialism in general. There should also be programs in place by each chapter to target areas outside of the urban core, as well as areas with high populations of traditionally non-dominant groups (LGBTQ+, migrants, religious minorities, etc.). Chapters should take care with understanding that the US does have a sizable diaspora of Russian and former Soviet-bloc countries and that we must remain committed to our tradition of anti-authoritarianism. We cannot push future comrades to be Marxists as not all existing comrades are Marxists.
- Grievances Amendment: This is a well thought out concept and one that hopefully will be put into practice with potentially a few adjustments once debated upon.
- New Chapter Bylaws: I encourage creating this document for chapters with the express recommendation that new chapters adopt them without any revisions, but first those bylaws must be made as ‘universal as possible’ as to adjust to the realities facing each chapter uniquely, and be optional: if a new chapter wants to expend energy crafting their own bylaws, then so be-it. National should not dictate a requirement.
- Petition process for debate: Agreement.
- Reviving the National Advisory Committee: Still being fleshed out but otherwise in agreement with the premise.
- Internal Bulletin/Debates: Still being worked out, and also otherwise in agreement with the premise.
- Strategy Discussion, Caucuses, and Reviving the Activist Conference: Will have to wait for more concrete ideas before commenting.
- Change in Membership Dues: Overall I agree with a change in the dues structure, including an encouragement for a monthly membership dues payment. However, I would stipulate that there be annual options as well, and that the income based contingency be the benchmark for Sustainer level membership. I also agree with providing funds to chapters as part of their membership levels. I would like to see the membership card replaced with a Passport resemblant of the IWW, Unions, or fraternal lodges, containing stamps indicating what months dues are paid for to ensure that active members are properly credentialed for chapters. I would also task Chapters with assigning an officer to handle their membership stamping locally and task the national with developing an accessible, digital membership verification and management platform (a more robust CRM).
On the Akerman Blueprint, overall I am in agreement. However, I believe that part of the reason the Democratic Party moved to the right is because of a disengaged base and a mobilization attitude. The people do not feel connected to the party, they do not engage locally at the precinct, and are merely mobilized as needed. We need to focus energy toward resolving this disconnect of people and politics, by working hyper locally in socialization of people and ideas. Chapters should be challenged to work on building solidarity through camaraderie, fostering deep relationships between members.
Biography & Political Position
As I think it it is wise that everyone have a good sense of who people are before making decisions on who to vote for, here is my brief biography. I’m in my early 30’s, married, and am a parent. For those wondering, my career has largely been in information technology (IT) support, recently supporting network security products. I have credentials in IT security and networking. I am a Unitarian-Universalist atheist, if that matters to you. Although typically I would never mention this association in reference to my political leanings, however I am acting under a premise of full disclosure: I am a 1st Degree Entered Apprentice Freemason with the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain. I am an dues paying member of the IWW since IT isn’t very warm to unionization, thus union shops are hard to find. I don’t find I pigeonhole very specifically into any specific leftist ideology, but if you need labels I’m closer to ‘libertarian-socialist’ (despite not being fond of that term), very much an anti-authoritarian and against offensive-violence as a means of political change. I am a legally ordained minister (Universal Life Church… the internet gives us great things!) and do weddings on occasion.
I grew up poor, my family on several occasions were close to homeless (or were technically homeless but not shelter-less), I spent much of my youth with food-bank food, often times just above the line for financial assistance but not enough to actually survive. I didn’t get brand-new clothes until high school when my family had literally boot-strapped themselves out of poverty. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, I had to find other means. As an adult I’ve faced many economic and social challenges as well. I am a socialist not because I read a book somewhere and thought “hey, this sounds great”, but because I’ve stood in line for surplus bologna, lived in crime-ridden neighborhoods, moved frequently, tormented by peers as a child and decided “no one should suffer like this, ever.” I have walked many of the same roads of those we aim to lift up. I’ve lived all over the west, from Arizona and California to Washington and Colorado, and finally in Minnesota. I know the people of the west, the values, culture, and struggles of the people of the region.
My political experience has largely academic, as my initial college studies were in Political Science. About the time I was in a class reading all the political classics (Machiavelli, Marx, Friedman, Kant, etc.) did I decide I was kinda done with reading political thought from mostly white men who died a long time ago, and went into fighting endlessly with machines, hackers, and all things digital. I am an alumni of the Boys’ State program, seeing how government ‘should’ work (and knowing full well it doesn’t mirror that at all). I have participated in religious social justice in the UU communities, but mostly I spent my time responding to the immediate needs of people in dire situations, volunteering my time with various emergency and disaster response groups. The result is I know more about organizing a multi-organization emergency response incident management team than I do about political organizing, but there is a lot of relation. The difference is the crisis isn’t an very immediate wildfire with specific tactics for dealing with it, but something more abstract where there are numerous opinions on how to deal with the problem.
Conclusion – Why you should give me your vote for NPC
If you’re not satisfied with the east-coast dominance of the NPC, or if you’re not exactly excited about the ‘caucuses’ and factionalizing that’s occurring, then I would be honored to have your vote. Honestly, you could even say it’s because I’m not exceptionally eager to have the role, meaning I’m not going to try to convince you to vote for me. If I get on the NPC, I will take the role seriously and work hard to make sure the DSA membership-at-large is well represented and the NPC doesn’t go off the rails. If I don’t get selected, no skin off my nose. Activism isn’t my life. I’m here because I’ve lived through the negatives of corporate greed capitalism and I’m done with it, so I do what I can while raising my family. I have been from poverty to middle class and back. Even if you don’t think I should represent the members of the DSA on the NPC, I encourage you to evaluate each candidate on their own merits and not their ‘slate’. The DSA needs unity and not factions, it needs diversity of thought and representation.
Forever in Solidarity,
Rev. Brad McGarr
Candidate for DSA NPC from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area of Minnesota